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Separated Dad. By Joel Schwartzberg. On Babble.com.

Father’s Day

One night in the life of a custody arrangement. by Joel Schwartzberg

June 16, 2010

“Okay,” I say, and select the Star Wars theme on my MP3 player. I maneuver around the other cars like a spaceship pilot, dramatically barking navigational orders all the way.

Once home, I hustle the kids out of the car, holding their red overnight duffel on my shoulder and their hands in mine. As usual, the bag is overstuffed with art projects, stuffed animals and board games they’ll never play with while in my twenty-four hours of care, but I’m happy for all the pieces of themselves they care to bring along.

Once inside the apartment, the girls brush their teeth, then burrow their tiny bodies into small Dora- and Pooh-inspired inflatable beds. I get their bedtime “sniff shirts.” One is their mother’s worn blouse from home; the other is my own T-shirt from the laundry basket. When they first started staying with me overnight, one asked for a “Mommy sniff shirt” to help her sleep. When her sister requested a Daddy version a week later, I couldn’t run fast enough to grab it.

“Eeeeewwwwww,” she says, giving it a strong smell.

“Too stinky?”

“No. I like it,” she replies matter-of-factly, putting the T-shirt to her nose and closing her I hustle the kids out of the car, holding their red overnight duffel on my shoulder and their hands in mine.eyes.

I make some popcorn, which my son eats ravenously while playing on the computer. Eventually, he traipses into the queen-sized bed in my room, and allows himself to be swallowed by the warm comforter. Before my girlfriend and I take our positions on the convertible couch, I peek in the room.

Watching them all silently sleeping, their bodies frozen in soft contortion, I know I should go to bed, too. But I treasure the moment, just like I did after each of them was born. At the time, seeing them finally asleep came as a relief.

Now, it’s a gift.

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